Date of Award
Master of Arts
In 1936, Sherwood Anderson read a stage version of Winesburg, Ohio to his friends Roger and Christopher Sergel. For Anderson the play marked the culmination of his efforts at playwriting. He had adapted his finest collection of stories for the stage, and it would now be the responsibility of the theatre and particularly of his producer, Jasper Deeter, to see that the play succeeded. Deeter produced the play at the Hedgerow Theatre in 1937. Anderson had no doubts concerning the merits of his play.
For Christopher Sergel, however, Sherwood Anderson's reading was only a beginning. Anderson's masterpiece, he felt, had not fared well in its transition to the stage. Anderson, he believed, had not understood the structural and thematic requirements of the drama and had not been able to give Winesburg, Ohio the dramatic focus which it must have to be a successful play. Lacking any centrally unifying theme or conflict, Anderson's play was reduced to a rambling narrative; it was at most a moving set of character portraits which could have no great dramatic impact.
In the following pages I shall attempt to evaluate the stage adaptations that have been written of Winesburg, Ohio. In my first chapter I explore Sherwood Anderson's involvement in the theatre which led him to dramatize Winesburg, Ohio and his friendship with the Sergels which was eventually to result in Christopher Sergel's Winesburg, Ohio (P). The second chapter involves a study of the stage history of Winesburg, Ohio (P) from 1935 to 1973. Winesburg, Ohio (P), we find, has had a history of stage failures. In my third and final chapter I have set about to examine the contrasting approaches of Anderson and Sergel in the adaptation of Winesburg, Ohio to the stage.
In 1954, at the request of El eanor Anderson (Sherwood Anderson's widow), Chri stopher Sergel began hi s own versi on of Wi nesburg, Ohio. In hi s versi on of the book , Sergel sought to i ntrod uce the uni fyi ng central theme which he thought was mi ssing i n the Anderson versi on. The Broadway prod ucti on of Sergel 1 s pl ay was a financial and , he felt an arti stic fail ure; and over the next 19 years he intermi ttently
revi sed the pl ay in an effort to make i t succeed.
Johns, Frank Stoddert, "Sherwood Anderson, Christopher Sergel, and Winesburg, Ohio" (1973). Master's Theses. 461.